Hi Coach Jay,
I just recently turned 14 and am interested in running a half marathon this summer. I've had plenty of training and know what my workout schedule looks like. Am I too young?
Hi Cheyenne. Wow! You're 14 and you want to run a half marathon. I love the motivation, and I think it's great that you love running so much you're not afraid of running 13.1 miles. As a preface to my comments, make sure you sit down with your coach and get his or her opinion on what you should do. Your coach's opinion trumps mine on this issue.
Here's the deal. There is no black and white, yes or no, good or bad answer to your question. On one hand, there are many good high school runners who run one or two half marathons in the summer because a) it's fun and b) they're already doing 8- to 10-mile-long runs, so 13.1 is a realistic stretch (a couple of times a summer). But the flip side is this: is your body really ready to run 13.1 miles, or, more importantly, if you try to race the 13.1 miles, what is the chance that you'll be injured afterward?
I don't know from your email anything about your training, so I can't give you specific advice on what you should do. I can tell you that if you're a 20- to 30-mile-a-week runner with a long run of 6–8 miles, I'd rather not see you run 13.1. But if you're someone who is running 50 miles a week, and you're doing a weekly 10-mile-long run, then I don't see why one 13.1-mile run is a problem, as long as you agree to the following: you're going to run it for fun and you're not going to try to race it. Why? You don't want to jeopardize your entire summer of training and your fall cross-country season for a half marathon, a distance that you'll no doubt run faster later in life. You have only one window in life for running high school cross-country, yet you have a lifetime to run (and then race) half marathons.
So be honest about your training, Cheyenne, and make sure that you sit down with your coach to get his or her opinion before your make a decision.
*Coach Jay's advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.